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Focus on opportunities - President's seasonal message

Posted on 19 December 2017

Chamber President Rob MayoBusinesses should focus on new opportunities in 2018, says Rob Mayo, President at East Midlands Chamber*.

In his seasonal message, Rob said that only firms with the foresight to sow seeds now will reap a post-Brexit harvest.

He said: “I don’t know how many firms have realised that April marks the start of the financial year in which the UK could leave the EU if there is no transitional deal.

“But I make no apology for looking to the future with optimism, confident in our ability to take full advantage of the opportunities which undoubtedly lie ahead.

“This great region is home to some of the most entrepreneurial and innovative business minds in the country. We create, manufacture and supply an incredibly diverse range of products, goods and services. We are an ideas powerhouse and, in my opinion, are well placed to flourish in any new business environment.

“There is no doubt that there are going to be some big changes but it’s how we handle change that determines our success. You can either let it happen to you and pick up the pieces afterwards or you can confront it, shape it and – once the dust settles, which it will – be the one standing strong.

“It’s my belief that the latter of the two options is the best one to take and the Chamber is very well placed to help members shape a great future.”

But he warned that while Brexit is grabbing the headlines, it isn’t the only big change that will impact business in the first half of 2018.

At the end of May, Britain’s outdated data protections regulations are going to be replaced by EU General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR), which are far more prescriptive and considerably more punitive if you get them wrong.

“If you haven’t considered the change yet, or believe that GDPR won’t affect you, I urge you to think again and make a start on your journey to understand and implement the changes you will need to make,” Rob said.

He added: “As no two firms are going to have identical demands with regards GDPR, so no two firms are going to have identical Brexit journeys, but there will be common ground.

“I think with Brexit, GDPR and any other changes that will be foist upon us over the next 12 months, there are three things that – if we get them right – will stand us in good stead for whatever lies ahead.”

Rob’s three keys to long-term success are approach, mind-set and preparation.

“Often in business, the legacy of the way something is done is as powerful as the outcome. As we face uncertainty – both in terms of challenges and opportunities - it is our approach that defines our future,” he said.

In November, the Chamber helped lead on an event that pulled together private and public sector leaders and MPs to focus on infrastructure investment in the East Midlands.

The outcome was a declaration, signed by many of those present, calling for enhanced investment in regional road and rail.

However, the approach to delivering that session – the relationships, the goodwill, the understanding of each other’s differing priorities – is what will stand us in great stead for the future.

Three days later, the Chamber was able to deliver directly to the Secretary of State for Transport the messages developed at the event.

“By working collectively, the first steps were taken on a journey along a road to correct the inexcusable disparity between the funding received here in the East Midlands and that enjoyed by the rest of the country,” said Rob.

A key part of establishing the right approach is having the right mind-set, according to Rob.

He said: “For the year or 18 months ahead I urge you to seek out opportunities. Having the right mind-set won’t make everything go your way, but it does put you in a better position to recognise opportunities and to react to new demands, to be in the right place at the right time to make the right deals.”

Just a couple of weeks after the Brexit vote, the Chamber carried out a survey in which it asked exporters whether their plans had changed as a result of the referendum.

Not surprisingly, nearly half said it was too early to tell. Two per cent said they would have to reduce their EU activity and a quarter said they would carry on as normal.

Rob said: “Remember that the value of the pound fell immediately after the vote. About a quarter of respondents to the survey had the right mind-set. They recognised the opportunities the falling pound presented and said they were increasing activity in overseas markets. We have since seen export levels among our members at record highs.”

Also in November, the Chamber took a delegation of exporters and importers to Westminster to meet Philip Rycroft, the Permanent Secretary of State for the Department for Exiting the EU, the most senior civil servant in Government trying to navigate our way through Brexit.

“Our members did us and themselves proud as they told Philip about their concerns and hopes for the negotiations, and it is that attitude, the mind-set of those businesses, that will ensure they succeed where others may struggle.

“That was direct lobbying at its best – taking members’ wishes to the heart of Government, to the very people who make the decisions. It will have left an impression with Philip that will hopefully support real-life national policy-making,” said Rob.

On preparation, Rob said: “Now is the time to be looking internally at our businesses, auditing supply-chains and assessing the reliability of customers. This isn’t ground-breaking stuff, it’s just good business sense, but with Brexit now so close, it has never been more important.”

Rob concluded: “The coming year to 18 months will be challenging but it will also be full of opportunity. With the right approach, mind-set and preparation, we can confront and conquer the challenges and emerge from Brexit as a true player on the global stage of business.”

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